Transcript: Sebastiano Rosa Soundcloud Interview
Jim: Hi this is Jim Sullivan, the marketing guy from Castello di Amorosa winery, and today I’m here with our consulting winemaker Sebastiano Rosa, who’s visiting from Bulgheri, Italy, and he’s here looking at our Super Tuscan Blend, and Sebastiano first of all welcome to Castello di Amorosa and thank you so much for visiting today. Let’s talk about your background in wine and your background specifically with Super Tuscan.
Sebastiano: Well thank you very much Jim it’s a pleasure to be here now it’s been a year that I’ve been here I come 3 or 4 times a year I’m really passionate about Castello di Amorosa and what you’re doing here
I’ve been involved with wine and I grew my passion with wine basically since the beginning of my life. I was very fortunate to grow up with an incredible person, of the name of Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta which is owner of Sassicaia, very famous winery in Italy. He happened to marry my mother when I was 2 years old, so I grew up with him and fell in love with wines, and I took his advice to go to Davis. I actually grew up a few miles from here in college, did my degree there, and then started my career in wine. First of all I went to France to work with Lafitte Rothschild, at that time 1991 when Sassicaia was supposed to do a joint venture with Lafitte to produce wine in Tuscany. It was a great experience for me, I worked there for a year, the project of making the wine in Tuscany didn’t happen but for me it was a fantastic experience. Then went back to Bulgheri and started 10 years working in Montalcino, fantastic time, fantastic winery, Tenuta di Argiano, which we develop the Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino from one of the most ancient and historical wineries in Brunello, and then throughout the time I was there we also developed a Super Tuscan, what we call Super Tuscan, which was a wine outside the rules of the Brunellos, and which started as a “vino da tavola” (a table wine), and became IGT, and finally in 2002, I joined my stepfather at Tenuta San Guido which I took care about at the beginning the 2nd and 3rd label at Sassicia and then I was appointed marketing director until 2012, when I started taking care of my winery which I acquired 10 years ago in Sardignia, so I took over sales in that winery, still living in Bulgheri, still working with my stepfather which is one of the most important figures of my life, both business-wise & family-wise. So I was involved with a lot of super Tuscans. I was involved with the beginning of Super Tuscan, and just to clarify what super Tuscan is, many people don’t know really the meaning of this.
It’s very simple: back in the 50’s and 60’s Italian wines were made in the DOC area of Chianti of Brunello and they were made out of Sangiovese, most of the time with strict rules. The wines were difficult to drink. The market was not appreciating the wines, the wines were very hard, very acidic, very rustic, and really how Super Tuscan was born was that my stepfather Nicolo Incisa was the first one to think about making wines outside of the rules of Tuscany, and what he did was he planted Cabernet Sauvignon (one of the first plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon in Italy) and he planted in an area of Bulgary where there were no wines made, and it was not a DOC area, so Sassicaia was something outside of the rules. So the term Super Tuscan was “invented” by a journalist that came to visit Mario Incisa back in the early 60s (the Incisa family has been very famous for Thoroughbred horses) and during lunch after his interview for horses, m I served this writer this great bottle of wine which was not labeled yet which was not in the market, this was probably 1968, the first vintage of Sassicaia on the market) and the journalist asked Mario Incisa when he was writing this article he actually called him back and said what’s the name of this wine, what’s the appellation, and m Incisa said well this is a wine that I make myself, it’s a wine I make in my vineyards but there’s no appellation, so the writer write back and he called it a Super Tuscan in his article and that’s how really things have changed in the wine world in Italy because in ‘68 saw the birth of Sassicaia and ‘71 the great Tiganello (made out of Sangiovese it’s true but with some Cabernet) was born and from there was a great success I took part of another Super Tuscan which was called Solenga which was made in ‘95 and there also there was no DOC that was underlining the fact that we were using Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, & Cabernet Franc, so at that time it was called Super Tuscan by the journalists of the wine world.
I remember a funny story, when the law changed and table wine were not able to have vintage on the label a Swiss importer I was working for asked if we could still call it Super Tuscan because nobody knows what IGT is, a great story, and underlining also what Italy can do, how Italians are smart and they’re very inventive and they have imagination, and I think we have to thank this great person to where we are. Nowadays, I have the fortune to consult with Castello di Amorosa. I come here 3-4 time s per year. I work with Brooks Painter, a great winemaker, who has been working here for many years and is a legend in the Napa Valley, and we are trying again to blend Cabernet Sauvignon (which is probably what Sangiovese was in Tuscany back in the 60s) with some Sangiovese. Castello di Amorosa makes some truly amazing Sangiovese, it’s hard to believe that these wines are Sangiovese; they are big color, very smooth, very pleasant to drink, and it’s hard to believe that it’s made in California. And nowadays we have this nice project of developing these kinds of wines.
Jim: That’s excellent. So how do you see the Super Tuscans changing, or how have they changed over the last 20 years? What have been your observations?
Sebastiano: well I think there has been an evolution. Obviously at the beginning people didn’t really know where they [were] going, they were following these great examples like Sassicaia and Tiganello. Nowadays each winery has found its own way; if it’s the terroir of Bulgary, it’s the terroir of Chianti, it’s the terroir of Napa Valley, the most important thing is to try to get the best quality for the consumer into the glass, and I think going out of the rules, blending what makes the highest quality is what it’s all about
Jim: That’s excellent. Thank you very much and thank you for coming out today and talking with us.
Sebastiano: My pleasure, thank you very much.